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You’ve heard there are ways to get free online movies. And it’s true. But how do you do it? Is it legal? Is it ethical? The answers may surprise you. Here are four good ways to watch movies online for free — and one not so good way.
Free Online Movies: How Not to Do Itmage: CC 2.0, by Bizmac, via Wikimedia Commons
Peer to peer (P2P) sharing has been around as long as there have been files to share. The long and short of it is that a user gets their hands on a copy of a file, then makes it available to other users. Peer to peer sharing is one way to get free online movies. And it’s fantastic for people who want to share their own art. But unfortunately, it’s also easy to distribute copies of other people’s copyrighted work. And that’s not only illegal. It hurts artists, too.
They’re not free movies
Someone pays to produce the art that you love. And if it’s not the consumer, a licensed distributor, or an advertiser, then the artist pays that cost. How? Every time someone buys a copy of a book, for example, the author receives a percentage of the sale price called royalties. No sale? No royalties. And if artists lose enough money, they won’t be able to continue making the art that we love.
But what about big movie studios? You might ask. They won’t miss my trifling $5. Wrong again. Experts say that pirating causes the film industry to lose around $750 million per year. As for the recording industry, pirating music has cost over 71,000 jobs. And when people download bootleg books, authors not only lose money but often lose their publishing contracts as well.
No One Really Prosecutes
That’s not true either. The Recording Industry of America and the Motion Picture Association of America have pursued both pirate websites and individual users alike. Governments around the world have shut down different bootleg sites. Also, some people, like two of the founding members of Pirate Bay, have even received prison sentences. Illegally downloading or distributing free online movies costs the movie industry money. And they have both the will and the means to go after people who steal from them.
So, How Can I Watch Movies Online Free?
It turns out there are plenty of ways to enjoy your favorites that don’t hurt artists or break the law. Free movies online? You bet! But how? Read on to find out.
Advertiser-supported free online movies
We all hate commercial interruptions. But commercials pay the bills. And if you want free online movies, one of the ways to get them is to use a service that shows commercials with your film.
Free online movies from Vudu
Vudu is an advertiser-supported service. Vudu allows you to watch thousands of movies online free, on your computer, phone, or tablet, with limited commercial interruption. And if the commercials irritate you, try to think of yourself as a patron of the arts.
Watch movies online free with Popcornflix
Screen Media Ventures owns Popcornflix. They have a library of thousands of free movies in all the popular categories. How can it be legal? Well, Screen Media Ventures is a film distribution company, and it provides its content for you to watch. Free movies? Popcornflix, like Vudu, relies on advertising to pay the bills. So you will get free online movies, but you will have to sit through a few ads.
Free movies from Tubi TV
Tubi TV is another place where you can see free online movies, for the price of watching a few commercials along with them. The service carries over 7,400 films from major studios like Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, and others. Tubi allows you to stream anywhere, using an impressive array of devices, including a Roku box, an XBox, the PlayStation, tablets, and phones.
Watch free movies online with Yahoo View
It’s true that Yahoo View focuses on TV shows. But they do offer some feature length movies as well. The service has a good selection of comedy, anime, kids shows and documentaries. Also, you can find some surprisingly entertaining game shows here, as well.
Free movies online from creators and distributorsImage: CC by 2.0, by Vancouver Film School, via Flickr
There are also some generous companies that make their own movies available for free, including some big names. How big? Sony Pictures, to start. The company that made Ghostbusters, Jumanji, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will allow you to watch their movies online free, via their service Crackle.
Free online movies from Crackle
If there’s one thing you can say about Crackle, it’s that the content is free, and not bargain basement content streamed badly. Sony puts out a continuous flow of new TV and movies. And, since Sony owns both the content and the service, it’s perfectly legal. You can download the Crackle app for all your favorite devices, too, so you can take your free movies with you.
Watch free movies online with Viewster
Viewster pays a licensing fee to the company that owns each film and then makes these movies available online for free. It has many different content types, but fans of foreign films and anime will be especially happy.
Free movies online in the public domainImage: Public domain, by Creative Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
Something that is available in the public domain is free of license and royalty fees, and free to use because it is copyright free. How can it be copyright free? A couple of ways. First, if a copyright expires, then that product enters the public domain. This is the case for many classic movies. A copyright holder may also waive their copyright, to make their art available to all. Also, some things, like recipes, were never covered by copyright laws in the first place. There are a few places to find free movies in the public domain that you can watch right now
Public Domain Torrents puts free movies online
This isn’t a mere streaming service. At Public Domain Torrents, you can download and watch copyright free movies. They have comedy, science fiction, action and adventure, and more. You can find some recent films there, but classic movie fans will be thrilled.
Free online movies from Public Domain Movies
Public Domain Movies is another place to find all sorts of copyright free gems. From classics like Charlie Chaplin to future classics from independent artists and studios, you’re bound to find something you like. And you can watch with confidence, knowing that you’re doing so legally.
Internet Archive lets you watch movies online free
Internet Archive gives you access to full-length movies, trailers, classic TV shows, historical media like WWII propaganda shorts, and more. You can download, borrow, or watch online. And you don’t even need to create an account. It’s a treasure trove for lovers of historical media, but you can also find recent indie and foreign films as well.
#4 Free movies online from your library
From the library? Yes! And there’s more than one way to do it. Not only are these services free, legal, and ethical, but they also make it easy to watch free movies online or offline, from your desktop, laptop, or favorite device.
Hoopla lets you borrow free movies online
If your library partners with Hoopla, you can “borrow” books, music, video, and, yes, movies, for free! It’s just like going to the front desk and checking it out. You get three days to watch your film; then it evaporates from your device. It works with your desktop or mobile device. You can also (temporarily) download to your device if you want to watch offline later.
Kanopy: free online movies for discriminating tastes
Kanopy is another service that works with your public library. They bill themselves as the choice for “thoughtful entertainment.” That means you’ll find a lot of interesting documentaries, classics, foreign films, and more. Even if this doesn’t sound like your thing, check it out. Their film library is extensive and filled with unexpected delights.
Yes, You Can Watch Movies Online Free
You can watch movies online free, and you can even do it without worrying about harming artists or finding yourself on the receiving end of a cease and desist order. Free movies are out there if you’re willing to search for them. And possibly sit through a word from the sponsors.